Think it’s impossible to run without stopping to catch your breath? Try this 5K training plan.
You don’t need to be told that now is the perfect time to don your running trainers and get fit. You’ve probably got enough on your plate without the pressure of needing to up your exercise routine and be the healthiest you’ve ever been.
But keeping your body moving is important if you want to feel like lockdown 2 has a bit more structure to it and look after your mental health, as well as your physical health.
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“More than anything, getting out in the fresh air is important for your peace of mind and switching off,” says Tashi Skervin-Clarke, runner and personal trainer. “Have no expectations. Just plug into a podcast, a good playlist or an audiobook and run. It’s a nice escape from day to day.”
While there are popular apps like Couch to 5K that can coax you through the training plan, it’s not for everyone. So whether you want to give running a go but don’t know where to start, get back on the running bandwagon you joined in March but forgot about in July or just want to improve your already-steady 5K pace, Tashi’s here to help.
5K running plan for beginners
If you’ve never run before, a 5K is a daunting distance. But don’t worry, you won’t need to thrash yourself during the month of lockdown in order to nail your target. “Four weeks is a good amount of time to get someone to their first 5K, even if they have to have a few walking breaks during the run,” says Tashi.
She recommends three runs a week for beginners to find their running legs, but spacing out the runs as much as possible for optimum recovery. That means don’t run Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, then forget about it for the rest of the week. Instead, try to leave at least a day between sessions.
While more experienced racers might try to mix up their runs with different distances and speeds to work on all disciplines of running, beginners can make every run of the week pretty similar, then “increase the work to rest ratio” to build up stamina. For example:
- Week one: one minute running, one minute walking, for 20 minutes total
- Week two: one minute running, 30 seconds walking, for 20 minutes total
From there, it gets less prescriptive. You might want to try a five-10 minute run with one minute walks a few times over. Or you might feel confident enough to attempt a slow-paced 20 minute run without stopping.
“For someone who has been running consistently for a few weeks, you can start to think about running for half an hour or so. That should get you to around the 5K mark – and it doesn’t matter if you walk during that,” Tashi says.
Between these runs, it’s so important to recover properly. “Stretching and foam rolling the calves, hamstrings and quads will be really key. And try to add some yoga to your routine, particularly hip opening postures,” she adds. “In an ideal world you should stretch after every run, but it’s important to listen to your body and work out where your niggles are and where you need to pay close attention to.”
Intermediate 5K running plan
If lockdown 1 was your time to nail the 5K, you can still continue training to get faster or more confident during these four weeks.
Sticking with three sessions a week, you might want to mix up your training with different lengths and speeds, such as:
- One steady 5K run
- One slightly longer run, maybe starting at 5.5 or 6K
- One speed session. This could be done in intervals again, so 60 seconds of intense, fast running, followed by a 60 seconds recovery walk or jog, seven-10 times
The same recovery rules come into play here, so make sure you make time in your plan for stretching and foam rolling, as well as taking time to de-stress and eat good food.
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